Saturday, December 18, 2010

Is There A Budget To Be Cut Under Your Christmas Tree? A View To The Future

In yesterday's Huffpo, David J. Skorton, the president of Cornell University  asserted that "We Can Do Better On College Costs."  He proposes calling a halt to the educational blame game:  "let's stop the intellectual shoving matches," he argues, "and get about the business of dealing with those factors that can and should be controlled to attenuate the rate of rise of both cost and price. And let's also stop apologizing for investments that are necessary to keep higher education one of America's premier 'products.'" His suggestions include:
  1. greater specialization on individual campuses, so that institutions are not duplicating partially filled programs;
  2. reviews of "faculty productivity and quality," including post-tenure reviews;
  3. acknowledging that educational administrators who are skilled at running an institution might not always have the skills to do so in a cost-efficient way.
    The economic crash that has motivated our current state of intensified budget cutting, Skorton argues, should be viewed as a re-set.  "Given our continuing uncertain economy," he concludes, "I call on my colleagues in higher education to reduce the rate of rise of our operating costs through focus, connectivity, accountability and administrative streamlining. Improvements in higher education's pricing and accessibility will follow."

    Now, before you fill the comments section with off the cuff remarks about what self-interested sleazebags and incompetents administrators are, please do two things.  Read the article, and ask yourself the question:  Isn't it time that faculty started to work with administrators to reshape and rethink what we do, rather than sitting around and howling about the latest set of budget cuts made by corporate executives and legislators who really don't have a clue what we do or why it matters?  And isn't it time for faculty to stop defending everything they do, in exactly the way they learned it should be done decades ago, as if the university is a place where nothing has changed since the 1880s?

    So here are a few initial responses to Skorton's suggestions from this faculty member.

    Overspecialization on campuses:  The vast majority of departments and programs would not be vulnerable to elimination on any campus under a plan to scrutinize overspecialization, in my view, although some positions within them might be useful targets for cross-institutional appointments.  Colleges would want to duplicate fields that draw numerous students and that are basic to citizenship, social/cultural competence, literacy and a student's capacity to choose a future: for example,  English, history, political science, mathematics, and philosophy.  But such departments might be asked to work together to ensure that they represented an intellectual direction that was coherent and distinctive, rather than one that fulfilled individual desires without regard to how those fields are supported elsewhere in the curriculum.

    Furthermore, the failure of area colleges to work together to establish consortium arrangements for areas of knowledge that are less desired by students is leading, not to duplication, but to the actual collapse of certain fields of knowledge.  German, for example, is under-taught on many campuses, due in part to the fact that the teaching of German at the high school level is almost non-existent. It is a difficult language that requires dedication to learn, and a background in other languages (also difficult to get more than a couple years of in most high schools) doesn't hurt either.  The response of the budget cutters is that there German departments should be eliminated due its marketplace failure -- even though the market for German among students has been actively and deliberately undermined.  One might argue that this failure does not, in fact, represent the actual value of being literate in German.  Knowledge of German continues to be highly relevant to many fields other than German literature (science, philosophy, history); furthermore, if you look at a market that really matters, Germany is the biggest economy in the EU, and you might think a global power like the United States might want to train people to communicate in German.

    Proposed solution:  cooperative hiring practices and curriculum development between area universities, as well as investment in transportation and technology that could make a cooperative curriculum genuinely accessible to all students.

    Improving faculty productivity:  I am not altogether sure what is meant by this, but there is one thing I know:  if we are talking about the teaching of students, there are very few courses that are underpopulated because the professor is a well-known incompetent (in fact that can have the opposite effect, as well-known incompetents are also often well-known for assigning very little work.)  Profs pulling down big salaries to teach few students is far more complex than this.  Issues to be addressed would include:
    • Elimination of core curricula and real distribution requirements in liberal arts schools means that most of us are simultaneously maintaining fields of knowledge and allowing uninformed student preferences to dictate how courses are populated.  Hence, Department X might be groaning under the weight, not just of its numerous majors, but of its massive service to the general curriculum.  Meanwhile Department Y culls a few dedicated majors from an introductory curriculum that students can completely avoid; and those faculty go on to teach 10 students a semester or so -- for salaries that can be (if say, the comparison is between a humanities and a science or social science department) significantly higher than the faculty in Department X.  
    • This straightforward ratio of students taught to salaries paid is accentuated by a second problem:  that most faculty don't want to teach students who are only in the room because they are fulfilling a requirement.  Hence, core curricula have to be backed up by persuasive advocacy and creative teaching.
    • The mania of "raising standards" for tenure and promotion everywhere is affecting other things that faculty do.  Granted, the production of good scholarship is important to good teaching in any field.  However, the increased pressure to produce ever more prior to tenure and promotion to full that younger scholars are facing is an indirect incentive both to evade students and to evade roles in faculty governance that, in turn, creates a need for more administrative staff.  In many places, senior faculty instruct those they supervise to attend to publication over all other activities, sending the message that dedication to teaching and institutional work is evidence that the scholar is insufficiently dedicated to success.
    • The mania of liberal arts college faculties for insisting that their "standards" for tenure and promotion are just as high as those at institutions with prestigious graduate programs undermines teaching at institutions that advertise this as their greatest value.  This is an odious and false assertion, and academic administrators should act to intervene in these expressions of hubris. Standards can be high in terms of quality without sacrificing anything to the teaching mission; however, except for the rare scholar, it absolutely cannot be true in terms of the quantity of publications in the dossier prior to tenure without sacrifice to the teaching mission. 
    • Take a good hard look at faculty who, post-tenure, might benefit everyone including themselves, by choosing another career and help them transition to it.  Admit that a faltering vocation is one of the conditions of labor, not just in the academy, but everywhere.  Most of us have a mid-life crisis; not all of us are good at addressing it without help and encouragement.  Instead of talking about "dead wood" in the contemptuous way we do, wouldn't it be better to find other things for such faculty to do and replace them with another person who really wanted the job?
    Proposed solution:  sustained discussions that instill a sense of collective responsibility for educating students across the faculty, establish a curriculum that demonstrates the values that caused the institution to invest in the faculty it actually employs, and see which fields and disciplines might be revived by humane restructuring of personnel.

    Increased administrative efficiency:  Okay, so you know what is not helping here?  The constant screeching, at all levels, for "accountability" and "standards," particularly from politicians who don't know squat-all about what constitutes good education.  Administrators who should be engaged in leading a process of renewal and reform are, instead, responding to politically-motivated attacks on education. But the other thing we have to re-think is the question of what kinds of problems are amenable to governance by people who are trained as scholars; and when is a good time to call in a consultant or two.  I can't tell you how much time I have spent over the last decade trying to solve problems that neither I or anyone around me has any expertise in solving.  One solution to this problem would be administrative exchange programs between colleges and universities:  if College X has someone who was able to find a creative solution to a particular problem, could we bring hir to College Y for a few months to look at our problem, sending in return one of our people back to College X to study the outcomes of their reorganization?  Reversing this exchange would then give College Y an administrator who was skilled in implementing the new plan.  As a not insignificant aside, this might eliminate the problem of larding on new administrative staff to address new problems without ever taking a fresh look at what the old administrators are doing and whether their work is still relevant.

    Proposal:  Increased hiring of consultants with relevant expertise; a high focus on continuing education and retraining for administrators; and ongoing consultation between institutions with similar missions about the challenges of the new environment.

    25 comments:

    missoularedhead said...

    Unfortunately, while many of the suggestions you suggest here are actually reasonable and, dare I say, valuable, territorial pissing contents seem to dominate much of academia's thinking. Take advice from someone else, much less someone from another campus? But that would mean that we're incompetent!

    I really do like the idea of collaborative courses within disciplines, and I've seen it (mostly) work. But such constructions take time, which may or may not be something academics have when dealing with a legislature demanding changes NOW. I also fear that the increasingly common use of adjuncts means that the core group creating these sort of courses might be too small, or too focused, to be truly interdisciplinary.

    Shane in Utah said...

    greater specialization on individual campuses, so that institutions are not duplicating partially filled programs;

    This is one of Dean Dad's favorite drums to beat, but it's always struck me as frustratingly region-specific. A consortium among schools to enable students to take less-popular majors at neighboring universities might work well in Ithaca, or Middletown, or anywhere else in a coastal metropolitan agglomeration with a half-dozen universities and colleges within a half-hour drive. But after my own university, the nearest accredited institution of higher education is an hour's drive away through a sometimes-treacherous mountain canyon. Short of online or distance education courses (which most of our students still seem to find unsatisfying alternatives), how's your consortium idea going to work here?

    Colleges would want to duplicate departments that are basic to citizenship, social competence, literacy and a student's capacity to choose a future: for example, English, history, political science, mathematics, and philosophy.

    I would add foreign languages to that list. And yet this isn't what's happening. At SUNY-Albany, it's the foreign languages, the classics, and theatre that are getting the axe. And at my own university, the English and History departments are each down a half dozen lines that have not been filled when faculty have retired or taken other jobs.

    I'll start taking proposals like Skorton's seriously when universities start asking whether their business management programs are redundant with their neighbors'. So long as it's exclusively the humanities and arts that are under fire, you're damned right I'll be reflexively opposed to attempts to "reform" the modern university.

    Tenured Radical said...

    But you see, Shane, this is the problem: because of your reasonable mistrust of how power is distributed in the academy, and because your institution is geographically different from mine, you have rejected the whole project out of hand.

    It doesn't have to be one thing *or* the other. And using technology doesn't necessarily mean an online course; it doesn't even mean never having an instructor in the room.

    Adopting a siege mentality is what we have been doing, and it isn't working as far as I can tell.

    Notorious Ph.D. said...

    I think the the specialization idea (at least to a certain degree) may be a good idea, providing that the fundamentals aren't cut (though I suppose that there could be disagreements on what constitutes "fundamentals").

    I've actually seen this in action, on a small scale. Ex-boyfriend teaches in a history department at Second-Tier University in Impoverished State. Normally their student population would consist primarily of those who couldn't (a) go out of state, or (b) get into Flagship U. So their department chair decided that, rather than full coverage (their history department has no faculty whose research predates 1750), they'd focus on hiring in two thematic areas that are not typically covered well in their region of the country. The plan is to make themselves a regional leader in those two areas.

    And although I represent the unrepresented premodernists, I actually think that, provided that other schools fairly nearby have strong premodern programs, this is a smart strategy for a cash-strapped state university system.

    Tenured Radical said...

    Nice example Notorious: it's also particularly fruitful in state systems, where transferring credits between campuses is easy and the distances reasonable.

    jim said...

    greater specialization on individual campuses

    This is very difficult to achieve. It's vary hard not to favour your own students over students from a different campus.

    I was a graduate student at Columbia in the '70s. My department, Math, was unified -- that is, Barnard faculty and Columbia faculty were combined into a single department, which decided which courses to offer and who would teach them; registration in those courses being open to Barnard and Columbia students equally -- but many basic departments weren't. In English, for example, there were independent Barnard and Columbia departments. The Barnard English department decided which courses it would offer; the Columbia department decided which courses it would offer; there were complicated rules on who could register for what when. I'm sure that for upper division courses they tried not to overlap. But Barnard's priority was the interest of Barnard students, Columbia's the interest of Columbia students.

    And these were two colleges across the street from one another with a long history of cooperation, a good deal of integrated infrastructure and where faculty members of each college often lived in the same building.

    Institutional boundaries are very hard to break.

    Tenured Radical said...

    What would be even more feasible in a place like NY, Jim, is if Columbia, NYU and the New School could cut deals for combined curricula, given that they are schools that are commutable from each other.

    But we also know that a critical underlying issue (as it is with Barnarad and Columbia, no?) is the distinctions in status that Columbia would want to retain over the other two, and NYU over the New School. And of course, god forbid the area public colleges would be part of the deal.......

    My point is not that Columbia is especially evil in this regard, but that we need to rethink education, and the ways in which what is "impossible" is lodged in resistance to dissolving status distinctions.

    Comrade PhysioProf said...

    (1) I took both Frenche and German in high-schoole. I thought German was a fucketonne easier than Frenche.

    (2) One major issue with administration in academia is that there is absolutely no training or scholarly approach to developing expertise in academic administration. The vast majority of academic administrators end up there because by sheer dumb fucken lucke, they happen to be decent at it (or not). In the world of business, management is an entire area of scholarly inquiry and practical engineering that is viewed as central to business success. In academia it is looked upon as a necessary evil (or even, by many self-absorbed delusional faculty, as an unnecessary evil).

    If academics don't embrace management theory and practice to the same extent that business people do, then the trend of hiring corporate d00ds who aren't academics to manage academic institutions is going to accelerate. To the extent that academics don't like this trend, they need to sacke the fucke uppe and adopt a scholarly and practical approach to academic managment.

    jim said...

    TR@1:45:

    Yes, but ...

    The status distinctions don't always work the way you think. A lot of the resistance to cooperation came from Barnard trying to retain its own identity. The problem with a unified department is the smaller school's contribution disappears. Undergraduates don't think of it as a combined department. Hell, for my first couple of years I didn't realize that promotion and tenure rules for faculty on Barnard appointments were different from P&T rules for faculty on Columbia appointments and that the Chair had to juggle conflicting demands from multiple deans. It's seen from the outside as a single department and allocated to the hegemonic institution. Barnard faculty disappeared into it. And with them Barnard identity.

    The risks of cooperation fall more heavily on the more vulnerable institution.

    Anonymous said...

    We have a siege mentality because we are under siege, from a significant minority that won't rest until proper universities are gone, and replaced with centers where everyone is trained in "job skills" that serve local corporate interests. I can't find the link, but two years ago there was a legislator in Louisiana who said that all the state should fund were technical colleges, because those were the kinds of jobs the state needed, and a significant chunk of his colleagues agreed. These are people who don't think a real education has any value, and they have power.

    Your ideas are wonderful- academia is full of inefficiencies, and we should work to cooperate. But it's as though the barbarians are trying to burn down the city, and you're proposing to increase the fire department's budget. It's a good idea, but not appropriate to an existential crisis. We need to drive the barbarians back- be out there in public, promoting the value of an education, and getting political so that people who oppose our values aren't in power.

    Anonymous said...

    Here is a thoughtful defense of the Liberal Arts in the light of the current cost-cutting frenzy:

    http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/255390/defense-liberal-arts-victor-davis-hanson

    JackDanielsBlack

    Anonymous said...

    I'm still thinking about your general proposals, TR, but in the meantime - speaking as someone who specializes in German history - I want to thank you for your thoughts on teaching German. I am so tired of people insinuating that what I do is totally irrelevant.

    wobbly wheel said...

    Radical, I think there might be a bigger storm on the horizon, which, near as I can tell, you haven't thought of: for the past few years, people who have spent their lives immersing themselves in the humanities, have been getting pushed out of academia by the inhumanely over-demanding academic job market. Dashed hopes mean broken loyalties--and new resentments.

    Some of these outcasts will just become harmless losers. But many will dust themselves off and become entrepreneurs, artists, businesspeople, administrators, and yes, even politicians.

    So the coming storm for academia is that soon enough, the administrators and politicians will know ALL about higher humanities education -- and what's more they'll have a personal vendetta against it.

    Some of the smartest grad students I know, upon realizing just how truly awful (or outright impossible) the academic job market this decade was going to make their lives, left academia while also taking a hard anti-academic turn in their thinking. They've been ranting about the need to abolish the humanities ever since. And now they're joining law firms, the county office, Google, nonprofits, the Beltway...If this represents a broader generational trend, it's going to result in a very damaging day of political reckoning for academia. Simply put, these people feel betrayed by the academic institution -- indeed they blame academia for all of their life-problems. And I can't say I entirely blame them.

    Matt L said...

    Radical, I read your post this morning, and thought about it all day. I will probably be need to think about it a lot more, because at Woebegone State, we cut 10% from the budget last biennium and it looks like we'll have to do the same thing for the next two budget cycles. Oh, yeah and we still had to raise tuition.

    The reforms or suggestions the article and your blog post suggest are simply rearranging the deck chairs on the titanic. Things are probably different at Zenith. The changes you outline would probably work in your region and for a liberal arts college like Zenith.

    As far as four-year state comprehensives are concerned Commentators like Shane and Anonymous 3.51 are right. Its the night of the long knives. The opponents of humanistic education have finally lucked into the crisis they have been waiting for.

    Marketing, accounting, and nursing will stay, communications, English, history, and foreign languages are done. Some FTEs might stick around in a merged department called "humanities" or university studies, to teach some service classes, but the majors are gone, or they will be turned into something insipid like Global Studies.

    Ciao. Auf Wiedersehen. Adios. Buh-Bye.

    T-T Historian said...

    Amen on standing up to the irresponsible tenure expectations. I am at a peer school to Zenith (same athletic conference) and the research expectations are *identical* to the RU/VH where I received my PhD. The admin suggests that since we also have a 2/2 teaching load we should produce the same as a research institution. This ignores the demands upon us by the students, and especially the difficulty in having to teach far beyond our areas, and in doing so to constantly invent new courses. In my first three years on the tenure track I had to teach 13 courses (1 overload) of which 11 were new preps! Talk about exhausting. But I'm still expected to have one book out, a few articles in top journals, and a second book on the way in order to have a chance at tenure.

    Guess where I spend all of my time and energy? It sure isn't on the students! I HATE the perverse incentives here since I went to a SLAC much like Zenith, and I valued access to professors, and excellent teaching. I'd like to provide that experience to my own students, who presumably come to a place like this looking for an experience similar to my own as an undergrad. They aren't getting it, and I think this spells long-term disaster for SLAC institutions. Students aren't spending 50K/year to be avoided.

    I think rising tenure standards are simply yet another way for admin to exert control over faculty. Sadly, many senior faculty, who themselves could never have met such standards, fail to speak out, or even go so far as to argue in favor of them. I'm so burned out now, in my fourth year on the tenure track, that I feel like I will have earned at least three years of acting like "dead wood" once I get tenure. This system is broke, everybody knows it, but nobody in power lifts a finger to change it.

    Anonymous said...

    While I think having cooperative curriculum design and integrated course offerings is a good idea (given good transportation solutions and the right geography as people have noted), I am generally suspicious of the idea of specialization since it seems to ignore how we generally go about creating knowledge. It seems to me that the major defense of the humanities (or whatever area is currently under attack) is that we don't actually know right now how that area will inform thinkers in other fields. I guess I assume it would be obvious to most academics that how we go about producing new ideas is often by triangulating or borrowing theories, ideas or observations from other disciplines - reframing material that others have not put together. Such new views of ourselves is useful for all disciplines and the idea of specialization seems to encourage the thought that we are teaching, researching and publishing information rather than techniques and ideas. To me it veers in the "funnel to the brain" direction (as I believe TR excellently put it a few weeks ago) of thinking about how knowledge and idea are produced and distributed.

    Adam

    Robert said...

    Great conversation starter, TR. I agree with the spirit of the post, if not all the specifics. Siege mentality starts in graduate school (low stipends, lots of work, vague prospects for future employment) as does another development you touch on implicitly but I would make explicit: the artisanal nature of the academy.

    Thus, from their introduction to academic labor, students/scholars develop and nurture two traits that make the sort of changes you propose practically very difficult: victimization and artisanship. We are taught to defend both positions, but as you note the result is that we collectively reproduce an outmoded model of the university.

    I'm not opposed to an artisanal academic culture per se. Indeed, I think the principle of independent labor is essential to good scholarship (image the alternatives: yuck). But if you extend that independence to its logical conclusion, it becomes solopsism and tautological. Anything we as faculty do is justified, because we are faculty. It's worse than herding cats.

    On the other hand, administrations suffer from a similar set of symptoms. They, too, tend to think in silos. This has become a massive problem at my institution. The administrative thinking here goes something like this: To compete with the big boyz as a global educational brand, we have to hire the best and brightest (read: famous) and name-drop them at every fund-raising event from Boston to Beijing.

    But, as we know, the only way to recruit the name-drop worthy famous is to promise them a robust graduate program in which they get to impart (artisanal) skills to the next generation. Enter the graduate school. If the right hand is telling us to hire the best and brightest, and run a successful graduate program, the university's left hand is under orders to cut costs and reduce the number of graduate students (turns out, unless you are in the sciences, they are VERY expensive).

    The result is departments that are pulled in two directions and cannot by themselves resolve this sticky dilemma. And, of course, since academic administration is always an exercise in buck-passing, departments are expected to resolve it.

    Given these constraints, faculty sink back ever more into a defense of the two aspects of their worldview (victimization and artisanship) noted above. And the cycle continues.

    It's not quite as bad as the U.S. Senate, but it does produce a certain stalemate that militates against the sort of creative, centralized re-imagining that you advocate, TR.

    Robert said...
    This comment has been removed by the author.
    Robert Self said...

    Great conversation starter, TR. I agree with the spirit of the post, if not all the specifics. Siege mentality starts in graduate school (low stipends, lots of work, vague prospects for future employment) as does another development you touch on implicitly but I would make explicit: the artisanal nature of the academy.

    Thus, from their introduction to academic labor, students/scholars develop and nurture two traits that make the sort of changes you propose practically very difficult: victimization and artisanship. We are taught to defend both positions, but as you note the result is that we collectively reproduce an outmoded model of the university.

    I'm not opposed to an artisanal academic culture per se. Indeed, I think the principle of independent labor is essential to good scholarship (image the alternatives: yuck). But if you extend that independence to its logical conclusion, it becomes solopsism and tautological. Anything we as faculty do is justified, because we are faculty. It's worse than herding cats.

    On the other hand, administrations suffer from a similar set of symptoms. They, too, tend to think in silos. This has become a massive problem at my institution. The administrative thinking here goes something like this: To compete with the big boyz as a global educational brand, we have to hire the best and brightest (read: famous) and name-drop them at every fund-raising event from Boston to Beijing.

    But, as we know, the only way to recruit the name-drop worthy famous is to promise them a robust graduate program in which they get to impart (artisanal) skills to the next generation. Enter the graduate school. If the right hand is telling us to hire the best and brightest, and run a successful graduate program, the university's left hand is under orders to cut costs and reduce the number of graduate students (turns out, unless you are in the sciences, they are VERY expensive).

    The result is departments that are pulled in two directions and cannot by themselves resolve this sticky dilemma. And, of course, since academic administration is always an exercise in buck-passing, departments are expected to resolve it.

    Given these constraints, faculty sink back ever more into a defense of the two aspects of their worldview (victimization and artisanship) noted above. And the cycle continues.

    It's not quite as bad as the U.S. Senate, but it does produce a certain stalemate that militates against the sort of creative, centralized re-imagining that you advocate, TR.

    Anonymous said...

    Why shouldn't tenure standards at Zenith be the same as a R1 university? I teach at an R1, and while my grad students make life interesting, the enormous time I've spent reading dissertations, giving--and prepping students for--graduate exams, and helping students get jobs is all time that, if I were at Zenith, I could be spending on writing. We have demanding undergraduates too. Zenith has the same teaching load and a better sabbatical policy than I do, and there are dozens and dozens of great universities within 2 1/2 hours drive (I have 1). Hell, why shouldn't Zenith standards for tenure and promotion to full be higher?

    Historiann said...

    RE: Tenure standards. The only reason they've increased so dramatically is the competitiveness of the job market. Why shouldn't my R1 Aggie school non-flagship in flyover country department hire Assistant Professors who already have met the tenure standards for research (or nearly so) if we can? The leading edge of the bell curve is driving this phenomenon, and the fact is that jobs at my uni are still pretty desirable.

    I think both T-T Historian and Anonymous 9:12 make good points--the demands for innovative and broad undergrad teaching that T-T Historian faces are real, and the timesuck of grad students that Anonymous 9:12 faces is real, too. I once taught for one semester as a lecturer at Wellesley College, and was amazed by the low teaching load and low student numbers AND by the world-class resources and funding available for faculty research. (Wellesley bought me a Widener Library card that semester!) Little wonder, then, that the Wellesley faculty were enormously productive. But, I think that level of resources is very unusual even among the toniest SLACs. From what I understand, that's what hampers the research agenda of folks at SLACs--the access to travel funding and library resources--moreso than student contact hours.

    LouMac said...

    I don't want to start an Overworked Olympics here, but just wanted to point out that sometimes, a broke R1 state university can have the problems that you've all identified for SLACs, and then some. Our travel and library budgets have been slashed, for example. All "small" (i.e. non-professional, non-English) departments are under pressure to offer new cross-disciplinary courses that enroll far more students and have little or nothing to do with our own work. Add to that the RI State U's typical litany of issues: I haven't had leave for 10 years (have applied for sabbatical next year but am in no way certain of getting it), have huge undergrad numbers, a full grad programme, and insane research expectations. Budgets slashed 18 per cent for two years in a row. Oh, and a salary frozen below what an entering assistant professor would make.

    I entirely agree with Matt L's assessment of the future of state institutions. And I so understand T T Historian's feeling that she will have earned a few years of doing as little as possible if she gets tenure. I just got tenure, and while I'm very happy about it, I am struggling to overcome my built-up resentment and still be a decent colleague and teacher.

    T-T Historian said...

    I have no intention of arguing who is doing more (SLAC or R1 faculty). My point is that we are, almost all of us, doing too much. A great deal of this is self-inflicted, as we fail to fight rising tenure standards. So, cui bono?

    I don't think it is the students. It certainly isn't the faculty. I don't think it is our field, in terms of knowledge preservation and production. There are too many poorly written articles and books produced - not to advance thought, but to advance (or maintain) a career.

    The only beneficiaries I see are institutions, who now have a much more cowed and demoralized workforce. One that is more flexible, more easily replaced, more easily low-balled as far as salary, and exhibiting classic symptoms of production and management stress. The veil is finally being ripped, and once it is gone why will the best students elect to join this rat race? The personal costs are too high, and the long-term costs to our field are too high as well.

    So, really. Cui bono?

    Tenured Radical said...

    OK, when I say RI the category is too big. When they say at Zenith that teh tenure standards are as "high" as X, what they mean is Harvard, Yale, the University of Chicago -- and it's just not frakkin' true. I put high in scare quotes because what they mean is rare and difficult, not that the scholarship is as good (which, by the way, it isn't always.)

    And I agree -- forget the working hard Olympics. The point is that if you keep ramping up the amount, and the pace, of scholarship in order to raise the prestige of your school, it's a loser's game for everyone.

    Anonymous said...

    I was Anon 9:12 who said that Zenith and my school might well have similar tenure standards, and TR's response, that she was referring to the canard that an excellent small school can have the same standard as Harvard & Yale, seems fair enough.